PINE VALLEY, Calif. —
What would you do if someone wanted to give you a $2,000,000 horse ranch? In this Zevely Zone, I visited a gift for every San Diegan, the Horse of the Sun Ranch.
Although Pine Valley is known for its trees, a new tall tale is taking root.
"Occasionally the kids will call me cowboy," said Ken Callaway as he stood on the gift of a lifetime; a free $2-million horse ranch.
The story goes, Jerry Hall and Joe Cuffaro were two San Diego businessmen who attended Cowboy School in Wyoming. The city slickers had so much fun roping and riding that when they returned to San Diego they asked, "What can we do to give back? It was let's buy one of these and let's bring in military veterans and military families and let them enjoy this life," said Ken.
After Joe passed away from a heart attack in 2014, Jerry decided to give the ranch away in 2020.
Tim Ney is the executive director of the Armed Services YMCA San Diego. He is suddenly in charge of 11 horses on 33 acres of land.
"On paper this is ours, but the gift really belongs to all of San Diego," said Tim who served in the Marine Corps.
Tim comes from a military family that dates back to Normandy.
"I was in Fifth Force Reconnaissance, he was in First Force Reconnaissance," said Tim's father, Joe Ney who served three tours in Vietnam.
"I don't ride horses. Helicopters yes, horses no," said Joe.
That's quite all right, there's a lot to do on the ranch and everyone is welcome to do it, not just the military. For just $99 any family in San Diego County can come up for what's called a Ranch Day that includes pony rides, laser tag, archery, leatherwork, and fabulous BBQ. In the summer months, day camps for children are also a big hit.
Running a ranch of that size almost made the Armed Services YMCA San Diego run away. The nonprofit organization was on the fence until Tim had a moment with Hank the horse.
"I paused for a moment and Hank walks over and looks me square in the eye. He gave me a little nose greeting and I said 'OK, we are doing this,'" said Tim.
Horse of the Sun Ranch provides an array of equestrian and respite activities. They are principally focused on healing the spirits of military families and at-risk youth, but all San Diegans are welcome to experience some of the most spectacular natural surroundings that Southern California has to offer.
Horse of the Sun Ranch is now an escape for all San Diegans to leave their stress behind.
"They can come up here and it just seems to go away for a day," said Cowboy Ken.
He was in the Air Force and wants to salute the two civilians, Jerry and Joe, who just wanted to serve. What did he think when he heard the Armed Services YMCA of San Diego was receiving a free horse ranch?
"I wasn't surprised at all," said Ken.
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So grows the legend of Jerry and Joe and the horse ranch they rode in on.
"It's smiles and laughter the whole time. People feel it when they arrive. It's really a special place," said Ken.
The Armed Services YMCA of San Diego provides innovative and quality social, educational, and recreational programs to meet the needs of military service members and their families. If you're interested in learning more about Summer Camps or attending a Ranch Day click here.
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